America

Income Inequality Is The 'Challenge Of Our Time,' Obama Says

President Obama talks Wednesday about the economy and growing economic inequality in Washington. i i

President Obama talks Wednesday about the economy and growing economic inequality in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Evan Vucci/AP
President Obama talks Wednesday about the economy and growing economic inequality in Washington.

President Obama talks Wednesday about the economy and growing economic inequality in Washington.

Evan Vucci/AP

President Obama tried Wednesday to turn the conversation back to the economy, calling the growing income gap the "defining challenge of our time."

"Some of you may have seen just last week the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length," Obama said. "How can it be, he wrote, that it's not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points. But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country. And it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people."

As Mark wrote last week, Pope Francis in an apostolic exhortation wrote that too many people are treated as "consumer goods to be used and then discarded."

"Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality," the pope wrote. "Such an economy kills."

Obama's comments Wednesday come as the president tries to shift the conversation away from the flawed rollout of the HealthCare.gov website back to the economy. The Associated Press reports:

"The speech comes amid growing national and international attention to economic disparities — from the writings of Pope Francis to the protests of fast-food workers in the U.S. ... He said Americans should be offended that a child born into poverty has such a hard time escaping it."

"It should compel us to action," Obama said. "We're a better country than this."

The president didn't propose any new measures in his speech.

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